The national women football league ended last Saturday in a dramatic finale that showed the growing popularity of women football in Rwanda.
Just like the men’s league, the winner of the (women) league title was decided on the final day, when AS Kigali beat third placed Musanze at their own turf at Ubworoherane to lift the trophy for the first time since the inception of the league two years ago.
APR won the inaugural league last year, and were hot favourites to retain the title after a spending spree that had players join the club from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, but AS Kigali proved a hard nut to crack staying resilient in the face of intense pressure from the military side, and once they went top of the league, they never looked back until the end.
AS Kigali proved to be the surprise package by winning the league for the first time after finishing fourth last year, and their coach Grace Nyiranumuntu attributes it to the club’s meticulous planning before the season started.
“I overhauled the whole team, because it had many fringe players without the basic requirements needed to play the game at the top level and signed players from secondary schools around town who had played football before.
We also introduced a wage structure for our players which increased their morale and had them take what they were doing seriously,” Nyiranumuntu told this paper, spelling out the reasons for their improved performance this year.
The top four clubs AS Kigali, APR, Musanze and Aspej have professional contracts with their players and sometimes pay tuition for players still studying, while the other clubs pay tuition and small allowances to their players.
The biggest beneficiaries will be the national women team, which now has a variety of players to choose from among the nine clubs, and it is a prospect that assistant coach Nyiranumuntu is proud of.
“The coaches of these clubs had a one week training clinic which improved them a lot and this showed in the way the clubs played in the second round of the league.
“The national team will now have a variety of clubs to choose players from and this will lead to competition amongst the players, which is vital for our team,” Nyiranumuntu,who also dubs as AS Kigali coach said.